Death of a Used Car Salesman

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I’m supposed to be blogging about my Kauai trip, so why haven’t I posted in days? Oh, that’s because my life has become an annoying circus of researching cars and dealing with sleezy used car salesmen.  I have pretty specific requirements what I’m looking for as far as type of vehicle, mileage and price.  I’ve been looking everywhere- seriously, everywhere.  It was so much easier car shopping in Houston because there was a different car dealership on every corner and most of them are fairly reputable.  Birmingham however is not like that.  There are only a handful of car dealerships and none of them are connected.  Is it too much to ask that all of the dealerships owned by this Serra character should be able to view what used cars are on each other’s lots?  What the crap is the purpose of having them all be owned by the same person if I have to go to each one individually to try to find a certain car?!

I’ve also been running in to the big problem of dealerships having cars listed online that are not actually on the lot.  I guess they’ve sold but the sales person tells me the car is there and when I show up for a test drive he claims it was “just sold” and instead tries to put me into something completely not what I asked for.  I know my car is out there somewhere because Carmax shows them; it’s just that they’re in Virginia or Tennessee or North Carolina and I’m not putting hundreds of miles on a car the day after I get it.  Here’s what I’m looking for, you can tell me if I’m being too persnickety:

Type:  Compact/mid-size SUV (Honda CRV and Toyota Highlander are my faves)
Mileage: 30k max
Price: Depending on what I get from Allstate, 22k or less
Features: Cloth seats

Really, not that difficult.  Obviously I’m trying to find the newest car possible in that range and so far I’ve come across lots of 2011, 2012 and 2013 models available. 

Let me explain for you my frustration with the sales people I’ve interacted with.  My first car we bought from an individual, next came Troy who we bought from a Lexus dealership in Houston so I’ve never had to interact with anyone who came close to the stereotypical used car salesman persona until now.  I’ve been really good about calling places to set an appointment with a salesman each time I go out hunting cars.  The idea is that it should save me time because they’ll go find what I want to test drive and have it ready.  That hasn’t happened yet.  The first place I tried I wound up not even going because in the 3 hours before my “appointment” 2 different sales people from the same dealership called me to try to get me to meet with them instead of the guy I’d made an appointment with.  Who does that?! The next place I went to, the guy made me wait 30 minutes while he talked on the phone with I don’t know who then didn’t have anything ready.  We finally went out to look for some cars and he kept trying to get me into a Yukon.  Where exactly does Yukon fit into the compact/mid size SUV category.  Right, it doesn’t.  After 2 hours and NO test drives later, I finally escaped.  By the time I got to the next dealership I only have time for a quick test drive of a Toyota RAV4.  Their website said they had some CRVs I could drive but the sales guy said it had “just sold” before I got there.  Riiiiiiight.  When the salesman was asking me about what type of car I was looking for (even though I’d already told him all of this on the phone when I made the appointment) he asked what color I wanted, if I liked Black specifically.  My response, “Yes, I love black”.  I kid you not, his response “I bet you do”.  Then when we get into the RAV4 and are driving around I’m asking him questions- average MPG, accident history, etc.- but he doesn’t know the answer to anything and eventually we fall silent.  He turns up the radio and it’s on a Boyz II Men-R&B-Soul station and the current song playing was super sexual.  At one point I remember hearing something about "nails on his naked back"…. The guy just chilled there humming along.  I’ve never been so uncomfortable in my life.  Needless to say I skedaddled out of there as soon as I could.  I’ve gone to 2 other places since there and it’s been the same pushy "I don’t really care about what you want just what I can sell" kind of attitude.  Last night on a whim I decided to stop by somewhere out of the way when I got off work.  I called ahead and the guy pulled out a Toyota Highlander and a Honda Pilot for me to drive.  The Pilot was like WAY over my price range but the Highlander was sort of perfect.  I fell in love.  Except it’s a bit larger than what I really need right now and it a couple grand over my price point.  Part of why I liked it so much is that the salesman I worked with was super nice.  The Highlander wasn’t ready when I got there, it was being cleaned, so I had to wait but this time I didn’t mind.  This guy wasn’t pushy at all and it made things really comfortable.  Frankly, if I’d had my check from Allstate I probably would have bought that car last night.

With my luck it’ll sell before I get my check so I’m still looking, which is depressing.  I’m going to start pulling my hair out if I have to keep working with jerk sales guys like I have been.  Maybe this is a turning point and I’ll only have nice, normal salesmen from now on.  Wishful thinking, right?  Anyways, that’s why I haven’t had time for blogging about my trip.  Literally every moment I’m not at work I’m either researching cars or driving around to different dealerships.


Habitat for Humanity Kauai Trip- Day 7

Friday, January 17, 2014

Day 7
Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!
Happy New Year!

Even the rooster crow couldn’t bring me down this morning!  It’s a new year and I’m starting it off with 12 new friends and a day filled with outdoor adventure! I couldn’t be happier. 

This morning Deanna, who was leading reflection, gave each of us 2 slips of paper and an envelope.  On 1 piece of paper we wrote down things that held us back in 2013 or things that we want to move past in the next year.  On the other piece of paper we wrote down what we wanted to accomplish in 2014.  This positive note we then sealed in an envelope not to be opened until New Year’s Day 2015.  The other notes we all put into a pot and set on fire.  I can’t explain it but watching those little notes burn and escape into the universe was so cathartic.  I literally felt lighter and happier than I had in a really long time.

We loaded into the van and somehow made it to the launching point for our kayak trip on the Wailua River.  The kayaking company employee who was there to orient us was, by his own admission, still drunk from the night before so we only barely listened to him giving us instruction.  I think everyone was itching just as bad I as was to get out on the water.  We’d be kayaking a mile or so to a dock where we’ll get out and hike 2 miles up to Secret Falls.  Then after we hike back to the kayaks we’d have the rest of the afternoon to explore the river.

That's my pony tail there in the back

The kayaks were tandem 2 seaters which I’ve never done before but I remember enough of seeing other people to know what to do.  My kayak buddy was Deanna, my fabulous new friend from LA, and we were kayaking pros once we got into a rhythm.  The hike wasn’t difficult per say but the environment gave us some extra challenges.  With all the rain they had been receiving the ground almost the whole 2 miles was thick mud.  The kind of mud that sucked your shoe right off your foot.  

We also had a river and some streams to cross.  A few of us tried our best to not get our tennis shoes wet because we knew we’d have to walk around in them the rest of the day but after one particularly slippery stream crossing where my short little legs couldn’t make the rock to rock hop everyone else was doing, I gave up and just started sloshing through the water.  It was really fun.  Reminded me of when I hiked up a river in Nerja, Spain.  It took a little longer than expected to get up to the falls because we may or may not have gone off the designated path and gotten a tad lost.  We made it though.  The falls were GORGEOUS! It was just one really, really tall waterfall that deposited into this big pool before slowly trickling down a rock bed to form the stream we’d be hiking around.  I was amped from the hike and ready to keep going so I didn’t get into the water.   We stayed for half an hour or so then hiked a different route down to the kayaks.  Once we were all back at the docked kayaks we made our way up the river the other direction than what we came.  It was beautiful! Absolutely peaceful and serene.  Every once in a while (when our arms got too tired) we’d stop paddling and just float.  We spent the next hour or so going back and forth on the river and eventually made it back to the launch site and back into the van.

From here we went to Kapa’a for lunch and to hang out.  We found a restaurant with mediocre food but a 5-star view of the ocean.  Most everything was closed because of the holiday so Deanna and I decided to go sit on the beach (lava rocks) and enjoy the view until it was time to head back home to Ele’Ele’.

Later that night we had our white elephant gift exchange.  Each of us brought a gift indicative of where we were from.  Of course I brought a “Don’t Mess with Texas” tshirt and the couple from New Hampshire got it.  Perfect fit for one of them so Chris better be wearing it all over town!  I got “Clueless” from Deanna (from LA, PERFECT gift).  In fact, I stole that movie from someone else because it wasn’t in my collection yet and it’s such a classic! Confession:  I’ve already watched it twice.

All in all, today was quite possibly the best New Year’s Day I’ve ever had.  I feel rested, ready and eager to get back to the build tomorrow! Side note- Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!


Habitat for Humanity Kauai Trip- Day 6

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 6
Half day of work today then a Luau tonight to celebrate New Years Eve!  Despite it only being a half day, today was the hardest day of work that I’ve done yet.  Today a small group of us volunteered (we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into) to put up a dust fence.  Kauai Habitat is about to break ground on a housing development of 107 affordable habitat homes.  A whole neighborhood of habitat homes! How wonderful!  The dust fence is up so that none of the gunk from the construction bothers the homes that already exist.
Sure, the work was difficult but it was made even more difficult because things weren’t exactly organized for us to get started work right away.  Once we finally got started working it was a lot of hammering, lifting, weed wacking, digging and so much more.  This fence is HUGE! Luckily we had a tall guy with us on our team so he got up on the scaffolding and did the initial hammering  to that the fabric was tacked at least to the very top of the fence.  In our safety lesson we learned that you aren’t supposed to move scaffolding with someone on it so with each board that he hammered in place he had to climb back down and move the scaffolding another 5 feet.  Still doesn’t sound that hard? Well, moving the scaffolding was just about as easy as pulling a donkey who has decided he doesn’t want to move.

Once the top was in place we had to go back and put smaller pieces on all of the vertical and horizontal cross bars so that the fabric would stay in place when the wind blows.  Problem with that is that the wind was already blowing! It was whipping all over the place and made it really annoying to pull taught and hold in place long enough for someone to hammer.  I’m so short I had to wait until we got down to the bottom section before I could shine.  I only hammered my thumb once!  It was a doozey though and the bruise is just barely still visible.
We stopped for lunch then went back to work until 3:30pm.  Only half of the fence got finished so we’ll have to come back sometime next week I guess.  I liked being out in the sun because the weather was so beautiful!  But that Kauai sun got real hot real fast.

The Luau we went to was at Smith’s Kauai, a little family owned place that boasts the title “Best Luau on the Island”.  I’ve been a luau before with my family on Oahu so this part wasn’t as exciting for me as some of the other people on our team.  And the fact that I’m a vegetarian now made this luau even less exciting.  I knew exactly how incredibly delicious that Kalua pork was going to taste.  They had really good fish though and the traditional Hawaiian macaroni salad was just as yummy as I remembered.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter how many luaus I see it’s the people you go with who make it fun and I was there with a very fun bunch.  It was one of our team member’s birthday that day so we had fun embarrassing her- made her wear a happy birthday crown all day, even to the work site.  And another brave team member went up on the stage to learn the hulu when they asked for volunteers! Seriously, she’s awesome… I NEVER would have been able to do that!  After we were all stuffed and sufficiently Mai Tai’ed we headed to the entertainment part of the night.  I loooove this part! The dudes with the fire are the best of course.  Since the show lasted so long we were able to celebrate the New Year in all 3 time zones that the team was from.  At 9pm, 10pm and 11pm we all clinked glasses and cheered so loud everyone around us turned and gave us stink eyes.  They were just jealous they weren’t in our crew.

I’m not sure any of us actually made it to midnight our time… once we got home everyone passed out pretty quick.  Tomorrow we’re off for New Year’s Day!  I think our team leader has a fun day of hiking and kayaking planned for us!  I’m really excited about that because I haven’t been able to go kayaking in a long time and you know I always love a good hike.

Happy New Year’s Eve y’all!


Habitat for Humanity Kauai Trip- Day 5

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Day 5
I was glad to have a day off.  We’d only been working for a few days but I was already really sore!  My back and shoulder blades ached so bad I could barely open the fridge to get out breakfast this morning.  For a day off we sure didn’t get to sleep in.  Today we had some of our cultural events planned so we drove all over the Island.
First, we went to visit the Pacific Missile Rim Facility.  This facility is a U.S. Naval facility and airport that serves as the world’s largest instrumented, testing and training missile range.  U.S. military can test missile tracking technology on submarines, ships and aircrafts.  They also have boats that will go out onto the ocean and act as dummies so that testing can be done on moving targets.  It was all really cool.  If you aren’t interested in the military stuff then you’d still love this base because it has one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen called Barking Sands.  You can only get to it if you buy a special pass or are with military personnel so it’s stayed really pristine and isn’t overrun with people.  The beach also has a really good view of Ni’ihau, the forbidden island.  I’m sure you’re waiting for me to tell you why the beach is called Barking Sands.  Well, here’s the legend:
“There was an old native fisherman, who lived in a hut nearby and had nine dogs.  During his fishing trips, he would tie his dogs to stakes in the sand (three to each of three stakes).  He would then get in his canoe and go fishing.  One day while he was at sea and the dogs were tied as usual, he got caught in a very bad storm.  For hours he battled with the heavy seas until he was finally able to return to land.  He was so tired that he forgot to untie his dogs.  When he woke the next morning and went outside, the dogs were nowhere in sight.  All he saw were three small mounds of sand.  As he stepped on one of the mounds, he heard a low bark.  Another step brought another bark.  Still he couldn’t find the dogs.  Believing the dogs had been buried in the sand because of the storm the day before, he began to dig; as each shovelful was removed, more took its place.  He finally gave up and every day after that, when he crossed the mounds, he could hear the low barking.  The dogs were never found and to this day, the sands of Mana have been known as Barking Sands.”
We walked all over and didn’t hear any barking but our tour guide assured us that he’s heard it, it just wasn’t the right conditions that day.

After that we loaded back into the van and stopped in Waimea for lunch at a delicious little taco stand.  That afternoon we were supposed to go on a Catamaran dinner cruise around the north side of the island so we could see the Na’ Pali coast.  Unfortunately the winds were really strong that day and the surf was too rough for us to go north so instead we went around the south side of the island.  We had already seen all of this during our hikes and our drive to work every day but seeing it from the water made it look completely different.  I love boats.  I get a bit sea sick but I still love boats, nothing a little Dramamine and Bonine can’t cure.  Most of the rest of the group spent the boat ride walking around and going up to the top deck but I had found myself a nice spot at the back of the boat so I perched there the whole trip.  It was so serene and beautiful!  We saw whales and dolphins and quite possibly the most beautiful sunset that there has ever been. 
Beautiful rainbow we caught from the boat
It was such a clear, cool night that we decided we should all go to the beach for a bonfire when the boat docked.  I’ve been to a lot of bonfires before but none of them on the beach!  So. Much. Fun.  The smoke definitely irritated my allergies but it was totally worth the scratchy throat.  After a few hours we went back home and hung out in the living room.  I tried my best to stay up late but being the grandma that I am, I think I was still in bed by 10pm. 

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve so we are only working a half day.  Pretty crazy to be ringing in the new year in Hawaii.  I can’t think of a better way to start a new year than being on a Habitat trip helping a family build a home.